For middle-aged, balding men wanting a performance track car but not wanting to drain their savings and 401Ks, the Honda S2000 was the obvious choice. I’ve always regarded this car, however, as the cheaper, more practical compromise for the those who really want something a bit more exotic, say a Lotus or a Nobel. But Honda’s special CR (club racer) edition of the S2000 throws exotic to the wind. This limited edition (only 2000 were made), track-focus coupe offers everything that should be found in a performance track car and does not fall short on the excitement scale.
Lets start with the pros. For many the mark of a “good car” is one of a soft squishy ride that absorbs bumps like Kirstie Alley absorbs donuts. Not so in the CR. In fact, compared to regular S2000s, the CR has tuned-up suspension making it stiffer and more responsive. This in turn lets the driver feel everything on the road that the car is feeling. It gives the CR an incredible light and responsive feel with only a hint of slight body roll in the corners.
But then the ride is second only to the gearbox. The stroke to change gears is so short it makes the Ford GT feel like you were trying to paddle a rowboat every gear change. The force it takes to move the shifter is virtually nothing and makes shifting the funnest part of the driving experience.
The smoothness of the clutch is also staggering. Driving new, unfamiliar cars involves embarrassing calibration periods in which you’ll eventually figure out where the clutch bites and grabs only after several burnouts and stalls. But these “new car woes” were simpyl nonexistent in the CR. Gear changes were easy and unbelievably smooth, even on high-revving downshifts.
So the handing is everything one could hope for and it could be driven by a 9-year-old. So what about the motor? When making the CR, Honda didn’t tinker with the car’s powerplant, leaving in the 240hp, 2-liter inline four that is found in all S2000s. And while this is a wonderfully engineered motor, the common complaint of getting most of the S2000′s power in high revs still stands. You can feel Honda’s VTEC really kick in around 6000 RPM, only allowing for a small 2000 RPM window to play around with before you hit redline.
But honestly, it’s a small price to pay, especially when you consider the CR’s party piece- it’s sound. I almost hesitate to explain as words will not do this high pitched roar justice. God only knows how Honda does it, because when the engine hits 6500 RPM, you’re taken to a place of complete motoring nirvana.
And that alone is worth more than an expensive exotic.
[A huge thanks to Chris for loaning a random 23-year-old stranger his car for a morning]